Monday, August 18, 2008

The Archival Production Line

If you had 3,000 photonegatives sitting in acidifying cellulose sleeves, you'd want to rehouse them, wouldn't you? That's one of the challenges facing the Library, and a concerted effort this summer by archival assistants old and new has resolved it. The photonegatives in this case contain 4" by 5" images of the RCA Laboratories staff taken between in-house by Norm Newell, Tom Cooke, and Marty Zak from the 1950s to the 1980s. Everyone who needed a photo for a passport, an award, or a c.v. got a photo, and a sleeve with their name and the date it was taken. Everyone from A to S, that is, the last tray of negatives being absent when executive director Alex Magoun retrieved them from the Labs' abandoned photo laboratory. He put them in archival boxes designed for minimal chemical activity and the trapping of any reactive off-gassing from the photos. But who was going to remove those sleeves slowly yellowing as their translucent cellulose broke down?
The answer lay in the Library's crack crew of students from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North and South Brunswick High School. Since this spring Adnan Khan, Kishore Riyali, Ujaas Barvalia, Harshal Patel, Samarth Patel, Pooja Mantha, Pranavi Vemuri, and Rajiv Putcha began the tedious task of copying the information on the old sleeve and removing each negative and sliding it into an inert polypropylene sleeve. They printed neatly, deciphered the sometimes flowing script and scrawls of the photographers, and most moved on to other pursuits this summer. Rajiv, however, brought his brother Rohith and sister Rohini to the Library, and they in turn recruited their friend Rahul Parekh. Halfway through the L-N box (R. P. Labe - F. Nyman), they caught a flyer, created an efficient system that still let them talk, and moved through the rest of the collection in jig time. Way to go, gang!

1 comment:

Rajiv said...

HEY Alex!!